BAME male working group and Race Network co-chairs
Title: Research into Action: The Experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Men in DFID
“They have taken everything they can from me as a black man short of killing me.” (DFID BAME Men’s Report, 2020)
Problem/objectives: DFID has a problem of representation and discrimination of its ethnic minority staff, particularly acute for black men. There are no black men in DFID’s Senior Civil Service (SCS). Granular data on BAME men’s experiences in DFID and ways to support them fulfil their potential has been lacking. For the first time in DFID’s history, this innovative project sought to (i) empower BAME men to share lived experiences; (ii) understand how race affects BAME men’s employment experiences; and (iii) advocate for improvements. The analysis unpacked the term BAME by disaggregating responses from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic men. The outcome was a 43-page report launched on 21 March 2020 (International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) which proved particularly timely given the subsequent focus on race following the death of George Floyd and reporting on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities. The report provided unique insights on what is preventing BAME men from realising their potential, including subtle and overt forms of discrimination: racially-aggravated shouting, swearing, racist jokes and sexualised-racial harassment. The findings ran contrary to the Department’s values in helping the world’s poorest and ensuring ‘no-one is left behind’.
Methodology/actions/challenges: The team of nine (including six BAME men) were volunteers with full-time jobs. The work supported DFID’s first Race Action Plan launched in January 2020. BAME men were encouraged to share lived experiences with assurance that anonymity would be maintained and information provided would be handled sensitively. Respondents demonstrated considerable bravery in providing testimonies and some reported re-living traumas they had buried. Support was offered. Expectations were managed given culture change takes time. The outcome was the amplification of previously silent voices on uncomfortable truths and a commitment from senior management to turn awareness into prioritising race within the inclusion agenda. This has been borne out in 4 actions taken since the merger of DFID and FCO, now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO): (i) appointment of Tim Barrow as Board Sponsor for Race; (ii) signing up the FCDO to Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter; (iii) launch of the FCDO Summit Programme (a talent scheme for HEO-G6 BAME FCDO Civil Servants) and (iv) creation of an Inclusion Unit, led by a Deputy Director, with dedicated resource on race.